Where Does ‘Going Viral’ Fit into the Diffusion of Innovations?

Where Does ‘Going Viral’ Fit into the Diffusion of Innovations?

Hint: It doesn’t. 

In our digital, post-microwave, post-dialup internet age, we expect ideas to come fast and solutions to come faster. After all, just one search of “going viral” in Google yields a mere 11,600,000 results in just 0.55 seconds.

In many ways, this mindset has carried over into the business world. We put up billboards and expect customers to roll in. One whitepaper will rock the industry. Hockey-stick growth, people.

Everyone’s innovating and everyone wants to go viral. 

This phenomenon of the lightning-fast spread of information is beautiful. But, age-old marketing theories and principles still work in 2018. They serve to realign our expectations with reality, while teaching us to appreciate the milestones along the way. 

Are there companies that appear to grow overnight? Sure. But, if you talk to any of those founders and CEOs, they’ll tell you about the initial periods of doubt, frustration and inconsistent growth. The tip of the iceberg, much like the model we'll discuss below, is only 10% of its mass. 

The Diffusion of Innovations
The Diffusion of Innovations model dates back to 1962 and represents how long it takes to win over a market. The end result is adoption, meaning you’ve affected a complete change in behavior. Keyword: change.

But, the more innovative the change, the longer it takes. It’s a process of converting doubters into believers. Just think, only 2.5% of people will see your vision the way you do at first. Everyone else might think you’re crazy. You’ll have to rely on the innovators to tell their other somewhat innovative friends, though growth will still be slow. After others hear about you from their friends and colleagues, your proof points will start to carry you through the majority. And even still, about 15% will drag their feet in adopting a new way of life. 

diffusion of innovation.png

No matter what business you’re in, these five segments of people exist in the audiences you are trying to target. And bringing each group into the fold takes time and effort. 

How to do it? It’s marketing. It’s having a brand that tells a story, talking to your audience, and showing them just how much your product or services solves their problems. 

Come up with a good strategy of how to reach your audiences where they already are. Craft carefully what you’ll say to them when you get there. Keep in mind that at each stage of the diffusion, you’ll need to reassess what you’re saying and how you’re saying it to the different groups of people. 

How long? Hard to say. There’s a reason this graph doesn’t quantify time. It can’t be predicted or standardized. Each business, and its audiences, diffuse at their own pace. 

You can’t rush these things. All you can do is celebrate the wins: new client, a doubled team, a big partnership; and tell people about them. 

Be patient and be proud; you will go far at converting doubters into believers.